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Shelbyville nurse reflects on ending 41 year career, amid pandemic

Kathi Hornback worked in nearly every nursing department at UofL Health's Shelbyville Hospital.

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — Many working in hospitals right now never imagined they'd be working through a pandemic. One Shelbyville nurse also never imagined she'd leave her career during one. 

Kathi Hornback spent her last day walking through the hospital hallways Thursday. 

"Oh gosh, 41 years," Hornback said. 

Hornback rounded out her career at UofL Health's Shelbyville Hospital in an unexpected way, as a pandemic was not something she imagined would be part of her time as a nurse.

"I never thought I'd finish my career wearing a mask my whole work day," she said. "It's been challenging with the patients coming in, and then from facilities that need to be cared for, and then getting patients to facilities." 

But like other nurses worldwide, it's just a time nurses are reminded why they do what they do.

"I love helping people, making them feel better," Hornback said. "And seeing them get better or sometimes they don't get better, but being able to be there with them when its not going the way you had hoped." 

Hornback's path into nursing wasn't planned, instead finding herself in the career field during her time at the University of Kentucky. 

"I had never thought of being a nurse. I have no nursing history on my side of the family at all," she said. "I ran into a friend from high school who said, 'Come with me, nursing's having a buffet and we can go eat and see what the nursing program is like,' and that's the beginning of my nursing career."

She then started in 1979 at the UofL Shelbyville hospital, following the steps of another Hornback. A relative of her husband, Margaret Hornback, also cared for patients at the hospital since 1947.

"It's that small environment where your patients are your neighbors, your friends, you go to church with them and you have people in your community taking care of you," Hornback said. 

In Hornback's 41 year career she says she saw numerous changes in technology and the medical field, but one thing always remained the same. 

"Oh the people, yeah," Hornback said. This is my second home. I have my home home and then this is my other home."  

Annessa Baker, the chief nursing officer, said Hornback's retirement is well deserved after working in nearly every nursing department.

"How can you describe how valuable somebody is when they've got 41 years of experience under their belt?" Baker said. "She knows the community, she's an advocate for nursing and has encouraged other people to join our careers and profession. We're happy for her, we're sad for us."

Her retirement signals the end of a "Hornback era" at the Shelbyville hospital.

"A lot of patients have touched me, I hope I've touched them in some way," Hornback said.

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